This poem, although so much lighter in spirit, bears a certain relation in thought to Keats's other odes. In the Nightingale the tragedy of this life made him long to escape, on the wings of imagination, to the ideal world of beauty symbolized by the song of the bird. Here finding all real things, even the most beautiful, pall upon him, he extols the fancy, which can escape from reality and is not tied by place or season in its search for new joys. This is, of course, only a passing mood, as the extempore character of the poetry indicates. We see more of settled conviction in the deeply-meditative Ode to Autumn, where he finds the ideal in the rich and ever-changing real.
This poem is written in the four-accent metre employed by Milton in L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, and we can often detect a similarity of cadence, and a resemblance in the scenes imagined.
Ever let the Fancy roam, Pleasure never is at home: At a touch sweet Pleasure melteth, Like to bubbles when rain pelteth; Then let winged Fancy wander Through the thought still spread beyond her: Open wide the mind's cage-door, She'll dart forth, and cloudward soar. O sweet Fancy! let her loose; Summer's joys are spoilt by use, 10 And the enjoying of the Spring Fades as does its blossoming; Autumn's red-lipp'd fruitage too, Blushing through the mist and dew, Cloys with tasting: What do then? Sit thee by the ingle, when The sear faggot blazes bright, Spirit of a winter's night; When the soundless earth is muffled, And the caked snow is shuffled 20 From the ploughboy's heavy shoon; When the Night doth meet the Noon In a dark conspiracy To banish Even from her sky. Sit thee there, and send abroad, With a mind self-overaw'd, Fancy, high-commission'd:--send her! She has vassals to attend her: She will bring, in spite of frost, Beauties that the earth hath lost; 30 She will bring thee, all together, All delights of summer weather; All the buds and bells of May, From dewy sward or thorny spray All the heaped Autumn's wealth, With a still, mysterious stealth: She will mix these pleasures up Like three fit wines in a cup, And thou shalt quaff it:--thou shalt hear Distant harvest-carols clear; 40 Rustle of the reaped corn; Sweet birds antheming the morn: And, in the same moment--hark! 'Tis the early April lark, Or the rooks, with busy caw, Foraging for sticks and straw. Thou shalt, at one glance, behold The daisy and the marigold; White-plum'd lilies, and the first Hedge-grown primrose that hath burst; 50 Shaded hyacinth, alway Sapphire queen of the mid-May; And every leaf, and every flower Pearled with the self-same shower. Thou shalt see the field-mouse peep Meagre from its celled sleep; And the snake all winter-thin Cast on sunny bank its skin; Freckled nest-eggs thou shalt see Hatching in the hawthorn-tree, 60 When the hen-bird's wing doth rest Quiet on her mossy nest; Then the hurry and alarm When the bee-hive casts its swarm; Acorns ripe down-pattering, While the autumn breezes sing.
Oh, sweet Fancy! let her loose; Every thing is spoilt by use: Where's the cheek that doth not fade, Too much gaz'd at? Where's the maid 70 Whose lip mature is ever new? Where's the eye, however blue, Doth not weary? Where's the face One would meet in every place? Where's the voice, however soft, One would hear so very oft? At a touch sweet Pleasure melteth Like to bubbles when rain pelteth. Let, then, winged Fancy find Thee a mistress to thy mind: 80 Dulcet-eyed as Ceres' daughter, Ere the God of Torment taught her How to frown and how to chide; With a waist and with a side White as Hebe's, when her zone Slipt its golden clasp, and down Fell her kirtle to her feet, While she held the goblet sweet, And Jove grew languid.--Break the mesh Of the Fancy's silken leash; 90 Quickly break her prison-string And such joys as these she'll bring.-- Let the winged Fancy roam Pleasure never is at home.